Recently I was challenged by a Roman Catholic ("Tim MD") to defend my blog article about Luther using the word "alone" in his translation of Romans 3:28. Below in its entirety is the debate. The original discussion can be found here.
Format: 1000 word opening statements. 750 word rebuttals. 500 word rebuttals. 250 word rebuttals. 200 word closing statements.
Opening Statement (James Swan)
Many Roman Catholics criticize the accuracy of Luther’s translation of Romans 3:28, “That a man is justified apart from the works of law, through faith only.” Luther’s integrity and sincerity are also vilified as the impetus twisting his translation. I will argue Luther honestly sought to translate the verse into German according to the implications of the context. I will also argue Catholic criticisms on this issue typically employ double standards. When evaluated using Roman Catholic authority paradigms and historical standards, modern Catholic charges brought against Luther do not indict him, but rather allow him the freedom to translate the verse in the manner he did.
In the New Testament, Paul contrasted the works of Law with faith (Galatians 2:16). Logically, the Mosaic Law is the highest law ever presented, coming directly from God. Paul states the Law is just and good (Romans 7:12). The works of Law though were unable to justify (Galatians 2:16). Reasonably, if the works of the highest Law are unable to contribute to justification, works on a lower scale will not suffice either (for example, works like penance). By contrast, Romans 3:28 presents the way of justification: “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” Paul’s contrast between working and believing is presented clearly in Romans 4:4-5, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” Romans 3:21-26 clearly states Paul’s antithesis between faith and works. Romans 4:16 assures us that justification is by faith that it may be in accordance with grace. If salvation is by grace, it cannot possibly be of works (Romans 11:6), any works!
Luther brought this exegetical understanding to his translation of Romans 3:28. His intention, a perfectly allowable intention, was to translate the Bible into an easily comprehended form of popular German. Hence, his translation at times employed forms of dynamic equivalence, as many translations do. Word-for-word translations can be cumbersome and awkward, and not appealing to average readers. Rather, many translations seek to maximize readability with a minimum of verbal distortion by translating according to “concept.” In translating Romans, Luther tried to present the “impact” of what the original Greek had on its first readers, and to present the German style and idiom equivalent for his readers.
Commenting on Paul’s argument in Romans 3, Charles Hodge stated: “If by faith, it is not of works; and if not of works, there can be no room for boasting, for boasting is the assertion of personal merit. From the nature of the case, if justification is by faith, it must be by faith alone. Luther’s version, therefore, ‘allein durch den glauben,’ is fully justified by the context.”
An honest translator, Luther freely admitted the word “only” does not appear in the original Greek at Romans 3:28. He never sought to have the word added into any ancient manuscript. He states, “I know very well that in the original text this word does not occur. Nevertheless it belongs in any good German translation… Whenever we place two things in opposition and want to make clear that we acknowledge or accept the one and reject the other, we use the word ‘only.’ ‘The farmer brings no money but corn only.’ ‘No, at the moment I really have no money, but only grain.’ ‘I have only eaten, but not yet drunk.’ ‘Have you only written, without rereading?’ This is the form which we use in countless expressions: over against ‘not’ or ‘none’ we have the word ‘only,’ to make the contrast clear.”
Luther approached the work of a translator honestly. If Luther was attempting to radically distort the New Testament, his “doctored” work failed in many ways. Luther did not add the word “alone” to Galatians 2:16, nor did he remove “alone” from James 2. Even in his revision of the Latin Vulgate, Luther left the Latin of Romans 3:28 as it was, because the contrast was apparent.
If Luther was attempting to introduce a radical mistranslation into church history he likewise failed. Luther mentions others before him translated Romans 3:28 as he did (for example, Ambrose and Augustine). The Roman Catholic writer Joseph Fitzmyer verified Luther’s claim, and also presented quite an extensive list of those previous to Luther doing likewise. Even some Catholic versions of the New Testament also translated Romans 3:28 as did Luther. The Nuremberg Bible (1483), “allein durch den glauben” and the Italian Bibles of Geneva (1476) and of Venice (1538) say “per sola fede.” It is entirely possible Luther’s understanding of “faith alone” differs from those before him, but that is not the issue. The issue is whether or not the thrust of Romans 3:28 implies “alone.” Others previous to Luther may have differed in theological interpretation, yet saw the thrust of the words implied “alone.” Hence, as a translator, Luther holds company with others, and cannot be charged with a mistranslation. If he’s guilty of such a charge, so are many before him.
But the entire Catholic crusade against Luther on this issue is entirely unjustified when evaluated by their own paradigms. To my knowledge, there was not any official dogmatic statement prohibiting Luther from either translating the Bible, or translating Romans 3:28 as he did. There was not an infallible interpretation of Romans 3 during Luther’s translation work. Until such dogmatic declarations, those throughout church history previous to such cannot be held anathema for their positions or interpretations of Biblical passages. Further, there wasn’t a defined Roman position on Justification previous to Luther. That is, Catholics cannot even indict Luther’s understanding of justification, because previous to Trent, there was not “one” Catholic understanding of justification. Therefore, Catholics who criticize Luther for not having “authority” to translate as he did forget their own Church allowed Luther to do so without him posthumously falling under an anathema.
Opening Statement (Tim MD)
Martin Luther freely admitted that the word “alone” was not in the original text of Romans3:28 and in fact, he vehemently defended his addition. His addition, “allein” brought Romans3:28 into direct conflict with St. James who depicted justification “NOT being by faith alone”. Pre-Luther, James and Paul were not in conflict, but Luther’s “allein” brought them into DIRECT conflict.
In altering Romans3:28, Luther not only denied James but several other Scriptural verses as well: Acts10:34-35,Mt19:16-21,Jn14:14-21,2Cor5:10,Jn5:29,Lk6:35-38, among many others.
The question at hand is was what Luther did right or wrong from a Christian perspective? The ramifications of this are extremely significant for Christianity. As such we should list possible reasons as to why Luther did could have been right.
There is of course, the possibility that the context of the verse itself and the rest of Scripture demanded the addition of that word, however, this would have required some kind of general agreement at the time within German Christianity, in order that it be a valid argument. In fact there was NO such agreement at the time and there is none now. At the time, Luther was soundly criticized by the Church, and today less than 1/3 of Christianity believes in any of the various versions of “Salvation by Faith Alone” and does not “see” this doctrine as being a Scriptural Teaching. Furthermore, IF, as Luther proposed, Salvation by Faith Alone was so clear in the REST of Scripture, one is forced to wonder why the addition of the word “alone” was even necessary
There is also the possibility that the German language dictated that that word be used in order to fully convey the meaning of Paul. This would be a valid argument except that, in fact, there are several Protestant German Bibles, such as the Elberfelder and the Hoffnung fur Alle that do NOT contain the word “allein” and so we must conclude that the translation into German did NOT dictate the addition of that word. After all, there are plenty of German Protestants who read these Scriptures and conclude that the Bible teaches Salvation by Faith Alone WITHOUT the addition of that word. Of course, the Die Bibel (Luther) still contains it but the fact that not all German Bibles today include that word is proof that the word is NOT necessary or even desirable, even within German Protestantism.
Luther’s actual writings indicate that he believed that the context of Romans 3:28 and the rest of Scripture DID demand the addition of the word alone. He also maintained that the translation into German DID require that addition and also claimed, IN WRITING, that he was Spirit led to add it.
Given that neither of the potential reasons for Luther’s addition are in reality valid, we need to determine why he DID add it in spite of a huge amount of criticism that resulted.
First of all, Luther had a strange criteria by which he determined what should be considered an “Inspired Text”. Because he strongly believed in Salvation by Faith Alone, he “determined” that any text which clearly denied that “gospel”, could NOT be canonical. With this self-made criteria, he made many famous statements criticizing or questioning the inspiration of several NT books (James, Hebrews, Jude and Revelations). So, rather than accepting Scripture that had been accepted by the Church over 1100 years earlier, he held up each text to HIS heretical beliefs and judged it by THAT!
This is the kind of authority that Luther presumed himself to have. It is VERY similar to that “taken” by virtually every heretical group over the previous 1500 years. In addition, Luther was not at all bashful about claiming that authority for HIMSELF PERSONALLY, in the exact same manner as did every other leader of a heresy:
“I am confident that it is not my word, but Christ’s word, so my mouth is his who utters the words.”
Under Luther’s “guidance”, any Christian who “feels” like he is “being led” by the Spirit, can proclaim (to anyone who will hear) that HIS interpretation of Scripture is superior to theirs. When this heretical belief is carried to it’s logical conclusion, that same Christian can ALSO “determine”, under Inspiration, that certain books, passages or verses are not inspired or were later additions placed in Scripture by unscrupulous translators. While Luther granted this “right” to all Christians, he SOMEHOW denied it to anyone who disagreed with him, especially Catholics, thereby setting a very well followed precedent, but of course, somehow not admitting that the “giving” of the authority to “interpret” was REALLY only granted to those who agreed with him.
Luther’s Open Letter on Translating indicates his thinking on these issues.
“....if I, Martin Luther, had thought that all of the Papists together were capable of translating even one passage of Scripture correctly and well, I would have gathered up enough humility to ask for their aid and assistance in translating the NT into German.”
I think that Luther is admitting that he had some issues with humility.
“.....if your Papist wishes to make a great fuss about the word alone, say this to him: ‘Dr. Martin Luther will have it so and he says here that a papist and an *** are the same thing.”
Here we have Luther demonstrating his humility again and also the Christian charity necessary to be considered a Christian leader.
“I will go even further in my bragging: I can exegete the Psalms and the prophets and they cannot. I can translate and they cannot. I can read Holy Scriptures ...................”
My Daddy always told me that is wasn’t bragging if it was a fact, but in this case, was it? Are we to believe that Luther, that ONE MAN, was ABOVE ALL of his detractors combined, or do we see here a combination of emotional “attributes” that could NOT HELP but lead a portion of Christianity into a that which is primarily based on ‘feelings’ of surety of either personal or denominational purity of doctrine.
James Swan- First Rebuttal (750 words)
The use of the word “addition” by my opponent lacks precision. In his opening paragraph his assertions can be read to imply Luther made an “addition” to an original Greek copy of Romans. This is false, and demonstrates needed definitional clarity of terms.
Luther used “allein” to express a concept inherent in the original text. This is basic translating methodology, employed by both Protestant and Catholic exegetes, and a technique not anathematized by Rome either during Luther’s time or ours. Arguments were not put forth proving the concept was not exegetically inherent in Romans 3:28 or Paul’s overall theology.
It is also incorrect to assert the basic Gospel message is not perspicuous in the original Greek of Paul’s writings because Luther used “allein” in translation. The force of the Greek presents the contrast.
My opponent noted Luther’s theological difficulties with James as another example of Luther’s mis-translation method. He didn’t mention though these difficulties were fueled by historical concerns, concerns that also plagued many who came before (and also contemporaries) of Luther. It was Luther’s mistaken historical notion (from errors recorded in Church history via particular Fathers) that James was a second century Christian and not an apostle or eyewitness. This led him to interpret James incorrectly. It is also a violation of a Roman Catholic paradigm to chastise Luther for rejecting James previous to Trent’s dogmatic declaration on the contents of the canon. Previous to dogmatic declaration, theologians cannot be held accountable for incorrect views.
In terms of the accuracy of translation of Luther’s Bible, James was translated and included. The word “alone” (and the concept of “alone”) found in James 2:16 was not removed. Thus, there was no “conflict” in Luther’s Bible. The text was translated accurately in both Romans and James. My opponent also listed a number of verses “denied by Luther” demonstrating absolutely no understanding of Luther’s theological construct of “faith and works” and the relationship of “Law and Gospel.” Luther actually used the same paradigm of understanding the relationship of faith and works that I believe correctly interprets James. Yet, he did not apply this understanding to James, because he was convinced an apostle did not write the book.
My opponent concedes there was no “general agreement at the time within German Christianity” as to the interpretation of Romans 3:28, but stops short of the full truth that within Romanism no dogmatic interpretation of the verse existed in Luther’s time or before, thus allowing theologians the freedom to interpret or translate the verse as desired. One can read Origen using the verse to describe the “faith alone” of the thief on the cross, Ambrosiaster noting justification by faith without the works of the law, and Theodore of Mopsuestia noting Paul does not mean justification “simply without the law.”
It was asserted that since many German Bibles do not include “allein” in Romans 3:28, the word is not necessary to convey the meaning of the text. My argument has never been the word is necessary to convey the meaning of the verse, only that within the realm of translating the word is justified to convey the meaning of Paul’s intent, and Luther’s translation was within the realm of reason. Luther himself explained “allein” is used so that other words will be “clearer and more complete.” Luther is not saying that without “allein” there is no clarity in the verse, but that the meaning implied is “clearer.” Luther sought his translation to be “clear and vigorous,” and the use of “allein” certainly fulfills this ideal. He notes further on, “Paul's meaning, urgently require[s] and demand[s]” the word because Christians are “justified by faith in Christ without any works of the Law.” Let us not forget why a vigorous translation of Romans 3:28 was needed. Luther states, “The dangers confronting the people also compel it, for they cannot continue to hang onto works and wander away from faith, losing Christ, especially at this time when they have been so accustomed to works they have to be pulled away from them by force.” This provoked Luther to conclude, “It is for these reasons that it is not only right but also necessary to say it as plainly and forcefully as possible: ‘Faith alone saves without works!’ ”
My opponent states Luther “claimed, IN WRITING, that he was Spirit led to add” “allein” to Romans 3:28. I don’t recall such a statement, and ask for further clarification. Luther stated his imperfection as a translator in his Open Letter On Translating.
Tim MD- First Rebuttal (750 words)
It is NOT my intention to debate the relative merit of the various conflicting Protestant concepts of Salvation vs. their Catholic counterpart since that debate could consume another 500 years and countless trillions of words without resolution. My intent is to clearly explain why Luther’s addition of “allein”, or at least the alteration of the definition of “faith”, was wrong from a Christian standpoint.
My opponent suggested that Luther’s addition of the word “allein” fell within existing Catholic “standards”. At the time, there was only one standard for such things and it was Catholic. Luther, having already caused his excommunication was already OUTSIDE of those “standards” even before he began his translation. His insistence regarding his authority to do so was only another demonstration of his heresy. If my opponent’s statement were true, it would be necessary to believe that the Church had a “policy” allowing excommunicated heretics to “adjust” the meaning of Scripture to promote their heretical beliefs and publish them in order to inflict their “extra-Inspired” concepts on an unsuspecting public.
Johann Eck told Luther at Worms, 10 months AFTER the Papal bull condemning 41 articles of Luther’s beliefs as being heretical, 5 months AFTER his formal excommunication, and long before Luther began to translate.
“Your plea to be heard from Scripture is the one always used by heretics.......Martin, how can you assume that you are the only one to understand the sense of Scripture? Would you put your judgment above that of so many famous men and claim that you know more than they all? You have no right to call into question the most holy orthodox faith.........”
From Luther’s actions, and his quotes from my last post, clearly Luther had a VERY high and unrealistic opinion of his own “interpretations”, EVEN when it meant disagreement with EVERYONE, no matter their “qualifications”. EVEN before he began HIS Personal NT Translation, Luther had already been rebuked by the Catholic Church, the only authority at the time.
My opponent has already admitted that Luther “brought his exegetical understanding of Salvation to his translation” but I maintain that it was neither the correct understanding nor the Historic understanding, just as he had been told. He also stated that Luther should be given credit for not seeking to add the “word” into any ancient manuscript”. I’m not sure how he would have done that exactly but this seems to be digging pretty deeply to find things to praise Luther for.
It has been claimed that Ambrose and Augustine both agreed with Luther’s concept of Romans3:28. This is highly debatable. These “Battles of the Fathers” are quite lengthy and do not lend themselves to this format.
As for the other two Bible versions mentioned, their translators did NOT define faith as did since Luther was the FIRST to EVER define faith as BELIEF ONLY. Given that, there is no viable reason to presume that the Church would have objected to those “translations” given that Salvation by “belief only” had never been connected to Romans 3:28 or any other Scripture. It is when faith is misidentified AND “alone” is added to Romans3:28 that the problems for mankind arise. I would personally have NO problem with the word “alone” in 3:28 AS LONG as Faith is properly defined.
In 1918-1919, Luther made at least 8 written statements that he would conform his beliefs to those of the Church, obviously showing that he understood the serious nature of the road that he was on. However, at “crunch time”, he went back on his word, obviously preferring to be excommunicated rather than openly admitting that he was wrong. This is the nature of heretics throughout the ages.
Luther defended his “correction” to the traditional understanding of Romans 3:28 because he was SURE that he was right and everybody else was wrong. His belief in HIMSELF far exceeded his belief in everybody else put together. Now of course there is the possibility that Luther (ALONE) was right about everything, but one MUST recognize the pattern with Luther as having already been played out with hundreds of previous heresies.
The history of Luther on this issue is only one of hundreds of examples of Christian schisms and heresies. A man, believing that he knows better than ANYONE, proclaims his authority to define God’s Word and will not be corrected. Not only was Luther a prime example of heresy and how it proceeds, it was also the blueprint for all of the tens of thousands of internal Protestant schisms.
James Swan- Second Rebuttal (500 words)
My opponent violated the rules of debate- adding two extra words by deleting two spaces. He also made an historical blunder, placing Luther in the wrong century. These points are nitpicking as compared to his clear defeat over the formal aspect of this debate: that including the word “alone” in a translation of Romans 3:28 is acceptable. He states,
“I would personally have NO problem with the word ‘alone’ in 3:28 AS LONG as Faith is properly defined.”
Tim’s statement of admitted private judgment here is quite ironic- there was no official dogma from the Roman Catholic Church when Luther did his translating stating anyone who translated the Bible must have a particular defined view of “faith.” There was not a dogmatic definition of “faith” as it related to justification available during Luther’s work of translation. Thus I wonder which standard was being appealed to when Tim stated his purpose as showing Luther’s “alteration of the definition of ‘faith.’” Tim continually steps beyond the bounds of Roman dogma and puts forth his own standards by which to judge methods of Biblical translation and theological terms during the 16th Century. Clearly this is inconsistent methodology from someone repeatedly charging Luther with reliance on private judgment rather than adhering to Romanist standards.
His admission also contradicts points made in his opening statement and first rebuttal, that the word “alone” if used, is an “addition.” He has yet to define this term as he’s using it, and, in fact, also refers to Luther’s use of “allein” as a “correction.” I would suggest that Tim uses various terms without definition in order to obfuscate the obvious: Luther translated the passage within acceptable linguistic boundaries.
He has also avoided defining other important terms with precision, thus giving less cogency to his argumentation. For instance, in response to my reference to the authoritative dogmatic standards of Rome, Tim MD states, “At the time, there was only one standard for such things and it was Catholic. Luther, having already caused his excommunication was already OUTSIDE of those ‘standards’ even before he began his translation.” Since the term “standard” lacks any definitional substance, his words are merely rhetoric. What were the standards of Rome on translating, justification, and Romans 3:28 during Luther’s lifetime? There weren’t any. Tim also states Luther’s understanding of Romans 3 and Paul’s theology “was neither the correct understanding nor the Historic understanding.” Yet, there weren’t any dogmatic statements by which to judge Luther. Tim states Rome doesn’t let heretics “ ‘adjust’ the meaning of Scripture.” What he doesn’t mention is Rome has very few infallibly defined verses, and Romans 3:28 wasn’t one of them when Luther did his translation.
Papal Bulls are not deemed infallible. Even Eck said of the Bull (mentioned by my opponent) that it contained nothing “Pauline,” and that it was written by people who did not understand Luther’s points, suffering defects. Thus, even the standards my opponent says placed Luther outside the church contained error, thus not trustworthy for certainty.
Tim MD- Second Rebuttal (500 words)
My opponent claims my use of the word “addition” “lacks precision” so I will gladly sharpen it and explain why he was wrong, even if it takes the rest of my limited “space”. I will do this using Protestant quotes on the matter so that “my” sources will be “acceptable”. In addition, I think it is much more compelling to learn that Protestants agree that what Luther did was “questionable” (at best) than what Luther says about his action.
Luther used his new concept of Salvation to determine how Scripture was to be understood and even what was to be considered as an inspired writing.
“Anything which stood in the way of this evangelical message must be thrust aside-even if it was to be found in Scripture. His translation of the Bible............was an expression of a relationship of love of the word of God, which meant that he could be as familiar with or even rude to the Bible.......He could treat the text in a startlingly proprietarial way. When he translated........(Romans3:28)....., he made no bones about adding “only” to faith.”MacCulloch p.133-134
“What gave the Lutheran Reformation its distinctive character was its decision to change the terminology in which the question of human salvation was conceived. Up to this point, the Christian tradition had focused on the Pauline notion of ‘salvation by grace’ and used this vocabulary in its discussion of how humanity is reconciled to God. Luther and his collegues now used a different Pauline category to express substantially the same notion: ‘justification by faith’. The reasons for this shift in vocabulary are not fully understood.
“Luther insisted that Paul’s doctrine of “justification by faith” was definitive for Christianity. And to make sure that there was no understandings about this, he added he word “alone” lest anyone see faith as one among a number of causes of justification-including works.
This addition caused a furor. Catholics pointed out that the NT nowhere taught “justification by faith alone”; indeed, the Letter of James explicitly condemned the idea. Luther responded by making the point that his slogan encapsulated neatly the substance of the NT even if it did not use precisely it’s original words. And as for the letter of James, was it not “an epistle of straw” that ought not to be in the NT anyway? This second argument caused considerable unease within Protestant circles and was not maintained by Luther’s successors.” Alister McGrath (a seminary trained Anglican). Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, pg.246-247
The change of the definition of “faith” plus the addition of “alone” that was the deadly combination that has led HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of faithful Christians astray.
Interestingly, the independent but concurrent Swiss Reformation saw no such “doctrine” in Scripture, thereby proving that even those intent on reforming the Church “saw” Luther’s new concept of salvation in Scripture.
It is NOT honoring Scripture for an excommunicated heretic to add a word to Scripture AND change the meaning of the then adjacent word in order to promote their heresy.
James Swan- Third Rebuttal (250 words)
My opponent states, “Luther used his new concept of Salvation to determine how Scripture was to be understood…” This statement is the result of the presuppositions that history and tradition determine Biblical meaning, along with an infallible magisterium determining which results to cull from both. These are faith claims, not proven facts. I deny the phrase, “new concept of Salvation.” It’s only “new” if the presuppositions and methodology are granted as that which determines Biblical truth. While history and tradition can be insightful, I deny they determine Biblical meaning.
I deny as well that it is Biblical methodology. Consider the tradition of Jewish Biblical interpretation during the ministry of Jesus. The Jews had multi-generation old interpretations of the Law and concepts of the Messiah based on the Biblical text. Jesus frequently overturned their understanding of both. Do we then argue that Jesus presented a “new concept of Salvation” because he presented interpretations not contained previously in tradition? Of course not! We realize that Scripture has a particular meaning, even if tradition gets it quite wrong.
The same can be said with Luther’s proclamation of sola fide. Justification by faith alone is not right or wrong because others before him either wrote about it or not- this doctrine stands or falls by whether or not the Bible teaches it.
There was no "change of the definition of 'faith'" in Romans 3:28. Rather, it was inevitable that someone would look past the layers of tradition and read exactly what the text stated.
Tim MD- Third Rebuttal (250 words)
My opponent would seem to believe that ANYONE, ANY heretic, is “authorized” to “see” whatever they “choose” to, and THEN translate the Scriptures such that they conform to their personally formulated doctrines, inserting words as they “see fit”. This allows individual Protestants to support an “addition” if they agreed with the translators “theology”, and condemn it if they do not, which of course is all VERY subjective (as is Protestantism.)
It also appears that he does not understand that the Church DOES have the authority to condemn even that which has not YET been pronounced by a Council as heretical, as it has done repeatedly. While it may be true that Luther was within his “rights” to question the issue of Faith/Salvation, the manner in which he did so and the manner in which he taught his other strange beliefs, branded him as a heretic. Much of Protestantism today would also brand him as AT LEAST “teaching in error”.
Luther was WRONG to bring his never before known “Faith as Belief Alone” “theology” to his translation and was also wrong to as James put it:
“Luther brought this exegetical understanding to his translation of Romans 3:28.”
Plainly said, it is BLASPHEMY to INFLICT ones own beliefs INTO Scripture and THEN add a word not included by Paul or the Holy Spirit in order to DECEIVE people into believing that they used that word. It was a deadly combination and to defend such an action is to share in Luther’s blasphemy.
James Swan- Conclusion (200 words)
Throughout this debate, I have pointed out the flaws inherent in the Roman Catholic paradigm of understanding. Rome cannot coherently make sense of the facts of history or the Bible. Those defending her typically will not consistently apply their own standards. As a template by which to interpret “facts,” the Roman Catholic position fails miserably.
The formal aspect of this debate focused on translation and history. My opponent arrived at granting the validity of using “alone” in Romans 3:28 as long as the one translating it does not hold to sola fide. This allowed him to interpret the troubling historical facts I brought up, yet it resulted in far greater difficulties. In this type of framework, the actual words and syntax used by the Holy Spirit become less relevant than the presuppositions of the translator.
The material argument was about the Biblical nature of sola fide. In my opening statement, I presented a Biblical understanding of why Luther (or anyone) looking at Paul’s theological construct should arrive at sola fide. My opponent left this aspect completely untouched.
Tim MD- Conclusion (200 words)
It has been said that the Reformation “stands or falls” on the doctrine of salvation by Faith Alone. It does but not only that. In this debate we have seen ample evidence of the absolute necessity of defending anything Luther did or wrote, especially on the issue of salvation, lest we see that the Emperor (Luther) had no clothes.
Throughout history, the “sons” of heretics will go to extraordinary lengths to protect the “good names” of their “fathers”. But then, the word “heresy” is almost completely avoided by Protestants because they understand that it could EASILY be used against THEM by one of the other 33,999 “sects”. This is because, thanks to Luther, there is NO ONE within Protestantism who can pronounce anything as being heretical or anything as being “Scriptural” with any degree of authority other than what they have given themselves. So, all we are left with is a countless number of competing and conflicting voices about what is right and what is wrong and what is Scriptural, what the Fathers said, what is history, etc.
Theology, rather than being something to be studied and learned, has become subjective, a reflection of the individual rather than of God.